When the A’s first turned to Josh Donaldson two springs ago and asked the catcher/third baseman to quit catching and concentrate on playing third base, he jumped at the chance.
It wasn’t an easy transition, but his willingness to work on his game never wavered.
Tuesday night, with an acrobatic catch against David Murphy that carried the third baseman into the space between the left field tarp and the padded retaining wall behind it, Donaldson may have given notice that his defense doesn’t have to take a back seat to anyone’s.
A’s reliever Jerry Blevins was the pitcher at the time, and he was coming over to back up at third base.
“That catch should get him an invitation to the ESPYs. He’s just a guy who plays all-out all the time.’’
Jon Daniels, the Texas general manager, is in town to watch his Rangers play the now-second-place A’s. He was one of many who were blown away by the catch.
“When he first came up last year,’’ Daniels said, “he was a below-average third baseman. Now he’s one of the best.’’
The question for the A’s since late last year when it became clear that Donaldson could play third and would only get better was simple: How to rein in someone who puts his body on the line all the time.
The answer is that you can’t.
“That’s the way he plays,’’ A’s reliever Grant Balfour said. “That’s just him.’’
“He could get hurt, but he doesn’t let that stop him,’’ Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “I never knew what a good athlete he was. But he’s a gamer. Big time.’’
Oakland center fielder Coco Crisp, speaking for many, looked at that play and said, “That’s one of the best catches I’ve ever seen anyone make at third base.’’
–The A’s callups Tuesday, presumably the last ones of the season, did not include one big name.
Hiro Nakajima, the man signed out of Japan to be the A’s shortstop in place of the departed Stephen Drew, had a bad spring, was injured just before the season began, missed a month of the season, then went on an injury rehabilitation assignment.
He never returned. Nakajima had an up-and-down year with Sacramento, finishing at .283, but after a slow start he was at .320 or so and it seemed like he might be the next player promoted.
It never happened. Now the question is whether or not he will be around to finish out his two-year contract with the A’s.
A team player, he was willing to spend whatever time the organization needed proving himself at Sacramento. But after a year in the minors and with no promotion, he may decide he doesn’t want another year of this.